For a while now, Dan Uggla has been a pretty unpopular guy in baseball.
His inability to hit for a high batting average, aptitude for the strikeout, and atrocious 2008 All-Star Game defense have earned him quite a bit of perceived downside.
Many, including me, annually include Uggla on their “Do Not Touch Even if 150 Percent Desperate” lists in preparation for their fantasy drafts.
However, I have recently come to the conclusion that Uggla really does deserve more love than he gets in fantasy baseball, and I’m going to show you why.
First, let’s look at the player. Since his arrival in 2006, Uggla has only hit fewer than 30 home runs once, and that was when he hit 27 homers in that breakout ‘06 season. Uggla’s 84 runs in 2009 set a new career low and also marked the first time that Uggla scored fewer than 90 runs in a season. He’s been just as dependable in the RBI department, compiling totals of 90, 88, 92, and 90 in his four seasons.
Yes, his low batting average is a legitimate cause for concern for those in leagues which place an emphasis on batting average, but judging by his abnormally low .274 BABIP in 2009, it is reasonable to expect Uggla to bump his average back into the .250-.270 range with more luck in his favor in 2010.
In addition, for leagues that place a value on walks or total bases, it would be important to know that Uggla has drawn more walks each year since his arrival in the bigs. After his 48-walk rookie season, Uggla has trended upward by raising his walk totals to 68, 77, and 92 in the previous three seasons.
Even better, he isn’t going to kill you with 200-plus strikeouts like Mark Reynolds or Chris Davis. Uggla’s career high for strikeouts was 171 in 2008, and despite the 20-point dip in his batting average from the previous season, he was able to trim his strikeout total to 150 last year.
So here we have a guy who, since his four years of being called up, has averaged just above 30 home runs, 90 RBI, and 99 runs, plus the increasing ability to draw walks, who won’t kill you with his strikeouts—the kind of production that typically flies off the board in the first three or four rounds of the draft.
Yet, per ESPN.com, Uggla is still the 138th overall-ranked Fantasy player, around the likes of Nolan Reimold, Chris Davis, Brad Hawpe, Chipper Jones, and Alexei Ramirez—all of whom have some decent upside of their own but aren’t as likely to come close to Uggla’s power production (although Davis may have a chance to).
Compared to just his fellow second basemen, Uggla’s name comes up at 12th on ESPN’s rankings at the position. Let’s see how the four guys above him on the list did in ‘09 compared to Uggla:
8) Aaron Hill (.286, 36 HR, 108 RBI, 103 R, 6 SB)
9) Howie Kendrick (.291, 10 HR, 61 RBI, 61 R, 11 SB)
10) Jose Lopez (.272, 25 HR, 96 RBI, 69 R, 3 SB)
11) Asdrubal Cabrera (.308, 6 HR, 68 RBI, 81 R, 17 SB)
12) Dan Uggla (.243, 31 HR, 90 RBI, 84 R, 2 SB)
Uggla is a 30 home run talent buried in the second base ratings under guys who are undeniably talented, yet merely good for low-to-mid teens in the home run and steals departments, and he’s mostly left untouched because of his ugly batting average. In Fantasy Baseball, 30 home runs is a big thing.
As I already mentioned, Uggla has been a steady 30 home run guy for a few years now, but unlike Alex Rodriguez, Justin Morneau, and Chase Utley—who all hit fewer (or in Utley’s case, as many) dingers than Uggla in 2009—Uggla can be had near or after the 10th round of the draft.
These 30 home run guys come at a premium in Fantasy leagues, and not surprisingly, nearly all of the (fittingly) 30 Major Leaguers who hit 30 home runs last year were on ESPN’s top 100 fantasy rankings. The only two not in the top 100 were Dan Uggla and Russell Branyan, while 18 of the 30-home run hitters from 2009 were among ESPN’s top 50 fantasy players.
Bottom line: Give Uggla a look at second base. His batting average isn’t anything to get excited about, but if he produces anything near his career averages to this point, it will be more than enough to make you forget about a .250 batting average.
However, before getting too excited over Uggla, by no means am I saying draft him before Utley, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Brian Roberts, or Brandon Phillips. However, if you miss out on the elite guys at second, don’t be afraid to take a chance on Uggla.
You’ll probably get heckled by your friends at the draft for it, but come baseball season, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the ride while he who banks on Ian Stewart, Placido Polanco, or Scott Sizemore will probably be desperately searching for a replacement.
Want to join a highly competitive fantasy baseball league? Compete against the fantasy knuckleheads staff by joining our league: League ID: 432046 League Password: knuckleheads. When you join, post a message on the message board letting us know you're serious. Draft is 11:15 PST / 2:15 EST on Sunday, March 21.
We have it set up as an auction draft. You are set up with $260, and you need to bid accordingly on players. Free agents are handled with FAAB. You have $100 to spend the entire season. Your team will have two Catchers, one 1B, one 2B, one 3B, one SS, one Corner Infielder, one Middle Infielder, five OF, two DH, nine Pitchers, and five bench players.
If you didn't know, we have an entire fantasy baseball section and fantasy baseball RSS feed . We cover fantasy baseball rankings , fantasy baseball sleepers , and almost everyday we'll bring you some fantasy baseball news and advice .